Monday, July 29, 2013
What's Old Is New Again. The Return of the Workhouse.
Stephen Harper has a prison fetish. Despite steady declines in crime rates in Canada over the past four decades, Steve is hell bent on building new prisons. We like to mock him for this but maybe we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss it as the product of a whacked-out fundamentalist mind.
Harper just might be introducing Canada to a project that's well underway in the United States - the return of the workhouse and the transformation of the poor into profitable slave labour. That, at least, is the way Chris Hedges sees it.
Poor people, especially those of color, are worth nothing to corporations and private contractors if they are on the street. In jails and prisons, however, they each can generate corporate revenues of $30,000 to $40,000 a year. This use of the bodies of the poor to make money for corporations fuels the system of neoslavery that defines our prison system.
Prisoners often work inside jails and prisons for nothing or at most earn a dollar an hour. The court system has been gutted to deny the poor adequate legal representation. Draconian drug laws send nonviolent offenders to jail for staggering periods of time. Our prisons routinely use solitary confinement, forms of humiliation and physical abuse to keep prisoners broken and compliant, methods that international human rights organizations have long defined as torture. Individuals and corporations that profit from prisons in the United States perpetuate a form of neoslavery. The ongoing hunger strike by inmates in the California prison system is a slave revolt, one that we must encourage and support. The fate of the poor under our corporate state will, if we remain indifferent and passive, become our own fate.
In poor communities where there are few jobs, little or no vocational training, a dearth of educational opportunities and a lack of support structures there are, by design, high rates of recidivism—the engine of the prison-industrial complex. There are tens of millions of poor people for whom this country is nothing more than a vast, extended penal colony.
Gun possession is largely criminalized for poor people of color while vigilante thugs, nearly always white, swagger through communities with loaded weapons. There will never be serious gun control in the United States. Most white people know what their race has done to black people for centuries. They know that those trapped today in urban ghettos, what Malcolm X called our internal colonies, endure neglect, poverty, violence and deprivation. Most whites are terrified that African-Americans will one day attempt to defend themselves or seek vengeance. Scratch the surface of survivalist groups and you uncover frightened white supremacists.
We can't tolerate the creation of a prison-industrial complex in Canada, we can't. It's time to take Stephen Harper's prison fetish seriously and consider it a threat to our society and to our families. The opposition needs to confront Harper on this, make him explain himself, expose him for the underhanded tyrant he is.
It's time our opposition MPs did more to earn their keep. Contact your oppostion MP and tell him/her so.